Monday, September 11, 2017

This week, four screenings in four states:
silent film with live music in NH, MA, VT, CT

We enjoyed a great turnout of about 250 people on Sunday, Sept. 10 for the Boston premiere of the rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916), which was shown in 35mm at the Somerville Theatre.

But I'm already looking ahead to a crowded week of screenings that takes me to four different states in five days.

Luckily, our states in New England are small, so they're all easy day trips.

Okay, rounding them up in order, which is how Holmes would have approached it:


Wednesday, Sept. 13 finds me doing music for Mary Pickford in 'The Little American' (1917) at the Cheshire County Historical Society in Keene, N.H.

They're running it because the patriotic film played Keene exactly 100 years ago, after the U.S. had entered what we now call World War I.

Keene State College Prof. Larry Benaquist will lead a discussion on issues ranging from the film's propaganda value to Pickford's role as one of the pioneering women in cinema.

The program starts at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. More information is online.

Richard Barthelmess and Ernest Torrence battle in 'Tol'able David.'

Thursday, Sept. 14 gives me the chance to revisit an early favorite: Richard Barthelmess in 'Tol'able David' (1921), Henry King's evocative rural drama.

Shot in the Virginia countryside where King grew up, the film captures a way of life that hadn't changed in generations, but which now has completely vanished.

In addition, the film boasts a great story and a fine cast, headed by Barthelmess (who Lillian Gish called "the most beautiful man" she'd ever worked with) and also including stalwart character actor Ernest Torrence playing one of the creepiest roles of his career.

See it all for yourself at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass. The show starts at 8 p.m., and there's plenty more info in the press release pasted in below.

Harry Houdini leaves little to the imagination in 'Terror Island.'

Saturday, Sept. 16 sees me hauling myself up to Brandon, Vermont for the latest in our monthly silent film series at the Brandon Town Hall.

This time it's a double feature of rarely screened adventure thrillers starring none other than Harry Houdini!

The titles: 'Terror Island' (1920) and 'The Man From Beyond' (1922).

Yes, it's the same Harry Houdini known as the "Handcuff King," the legendary illusionist who amazed audiences around the globe with daring stunts and seemingly impossible escapes.

Houdini, like many performers of the era, had a fling with the new-fangled flickers, starring in several silent thrillers designed to showcase his good looks, magnetic personality, and athletic prowess.

The result was a kind of embryonic mixture of Indiana Jones-type adventure with mysticism, James Bond-style gadgetry, dangerous stunts, and anything else the plots demanded.

Houdini eventually gave up on the movies in favor of live performance. But came to Brandon and you'll see what he was up to.

Show starts at 7 p.m. No admission charged, but free will donations are welcome to support ongoing Town Hall renovations.

Lots more info in the press release, which I'm pasting at the end of this post.

Promotional art for Vernon and Irene Castle.

Sunday, Sept. 17 brings me to Connecticut, where I'll present an unusual silent film program as part of a Vintage Dance Weekend taking place in and around Hartford.

Featured attraction is 'The Whirl of Life' (1915), an obscure early drama but one starring no less than Vernon and Irene Castle, the ballroom dance sensation of the decade!

I hadn't known much about the Castles until the organizers of this screening asked me to run this title as the featured attraction.

Turns out the Castles were quite the shooting stars, rocketing to fame in 1914 in the first-ever Broadway musical by an up-and-coming composer named Irving Berlin.

Among other accomplishments, they popularized the foxtrot, and of course the film has scenes of them doing the dance that remains a ballroom staple. Okay, everyone: Slow, slow, quick quick!

Preceding 'Whirl' is a classic Charley Chase farce, 'Mighty Like a Moose' (1926), which also has some dancing in it, plus a lot of other great stuff.

Should be a fun program at Hartford's Charter Oaks Cultural Center, and it's actually open to the public—even to non-vintage-dance folks.

If you'd like to attend, there's more info at this Constant Contact page.

Okay, a busy week beckons. But first, let me follow through with the promised press releases, first for 'Tol'able David' and then for the Houdini program. Hope to see you at one or two—or perhaps you'll attempt to collect all four!

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WEDNESDAY, AUG. 30, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Rip-roaring rural drama at Arlington's Capitol Theatre on Thursday, Sept. 14


'Tol'able David' (1921), ground-breaking silent coming-of-age drama filmed entirely on location, to be screened with live music

ARLINGTON, Mass.—A film that helped Hollywood understand the power of location shooting will continue this season's silent film series at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass.

'Tol'able David' (1921), a coming-of-age drama starring Richard Barthelmess, will be shown on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.

Admission is $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors. Live music will be provided by accompanist Jeff Rapsis, a New England-based performer who specializes in creating music for silent film presentations.

Barthelmess plays the title role of David Kinemon, an adolescent eager to prove to the community that he's a man. He gets his chance when three escapees from jail come to town and menace the local residents.

When push comes to shove, who will emerge on top?

Based on a 1919 short story by author Joseph Hergesheimer, 'Tol'able David' was directed by Henry King, then at the start of a long Hollywood career that would go on include such later classics as 'Twelve O'Clock High' (1949) and 'The Gunfighter' (1950), both starring Gregory Peck.

Boyish leading actor Barthelmess, one of the silent era's superstars and the Leonardo DiCaprio of his day, won praise for his realistic portrayal of a 15-year-old, although he was 25 at the time the film was made.

The cast also features character actor Ernest Torrence, who transformed the role of Luke Hatburn into what some critics have called one of the most sinister villains in all of cinema.

For 'Tol'able David,' director King insisted the film be shot on location in rural Virginia, where the story was set and where he grew up in the 1890s.

Much of 'Tol'able David' was filmed in the countryside within a few miles of the director's boyhood home in Staunton, Va., and as a result was infused with the spirit and details of a vanishing way of life that King knew so well.

The film is full of the simple rituals of small-town life as it was lived a century ago, when most people lived on subsistence farms ruled by the rhythms of nature and without modern conveniences.

It was also a time when there was no greater responsibility than driving the mail wagon into town—just as it appears in 'Tol'able David.'

To create a musical score for 'Tol'able David,' Rapsis will improvise using material assembled beforehand, using a digital synthesizer to recreate the sound and texture of a full orchestra.

"What I try to do," Rapsis said, "is create music that bridges the gap between a film that might be nearly a century old, and the musical expectations of today's audiences."

'Tol'able David' continues a monthly series of silent films presented with live music at the Capitol.

The series provides local audiences the opportunity to experience silent film as it was intended to be shown: on the big screen, in good-looking prints, with live music, and with an audience.

“These films are still exciting experiences if you can show them as they were designed to be screened,” Rapsis said.

“There’s a reason people first fell in love with the movies, and we hope to recreate that spirit. At their best, silent films were communal experiences in which the presence of a large audience intensifies everyone’s reactions.”

Upcoming shows in the Capitol's 2017 silent film series include:

• Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, 8 p.m.: 'Der Golem' (1922). Prepare for Halloween with one very weird flick! In 16th-century Prague, a rabbi creates a giant creature from clay, called the Golem. Using sorcery, he brings the creature to life in order to protect the Jews of Prague from persecution. Early German fantasy film anticipates Frankenstein story.

Richard Barthelmess and Ernest Torrence star in 'Tol'able David' (1921), to be shown on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. at The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass. Admission $12 adults, $10 kids and seniors.

For more info, call (781) 648-6022 or visit www.capitoltheatreusa.com.

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Houdini and crew on location at Niagara Falls for 'The Man From Beyond' (1922).

MONDAY, AUG. 28, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Rare Harry Houdini films with live music at Brandon Town Hall on Saturday, Sept. 16


Legendary 'Handcuff King' escape artist starred in a series of stunt-filled early silent adventure movies

BRANDON, Vt.—He reigned for decades as the legendary "Handcuff King," famous for his daring and impossible escapes staged around the world.

But Harry Houdini also had a brief career in the movies, starring in a series of silent adventure films that showed off his athletic prowess as his talent for illusion, stunts, and escape.

See Houdini back on the big screen with a double feature of two of his surviving films on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt.

Admission is free, with donations welcome. All proceeds support ongoing restoration of the Town Hall, which dates from 1860 and is being brought up to modern standards as funds allow.

The screening is sponsored by an Anonymous Donor.

The rarely screened Houdini films will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

Houdini made only a handful of movies in the 1910s and 1920s, and much of his film work is lost.

But enough of it escaped oblivion to provide a glimpse of the world-renowned escape artist at the peak of his worldwide fame.

In 'Terror Island' (1920), Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves.

The film includes underwater sequences designed to show off Houdini's ability to survive being submerged for long periods of time.

'Terror Island' was an ambitious production for Houdini; the film was directed by James Cruze and released by Paramount.

Existing copies are missing about 20 minutes of footage but the story remains easy to follow.

In 'The Man From Beyond' (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love.

Once thawed out, Houdini tries to straighten out the lives of the descendants of his old friends and lost loves. The film includes a daring climax filmed at Niagara Falls.

Although Houdini's films were well-received, he eventually abandoned his movie career, preferring to concentrate on live performance.

Houdini, born Erik Weisz, was a Hungarian-born, American-Jewish illusionist and stunt performer noted for his sensational escape acts.

He first attracted notice in vaudeville in the U.S. and then as "Harry Handcuff Houdini" on a tour of Europe, where he challenged police forces to keep him locked up.

Soon he extended his repertoire to include chains, ropes slung from skyscrapers, straitjackets under water, and having to escape from and hold his breath inside a sealed milk can with water in it.

In 1904, thousands watched as he tried to escape from special handcuffs commissioned by London's Daily Mirror, keeping them in suspense for an hour.

Another stunt saw him buried alive and only just able to claw himself to the surface, emerging in a state of near-breakdown.

In 1913, Houdini introduced the Chinese Water Torture Cell, in which he was suspended upside-down in a locked glass-and-steel cabinet full to overflowing with water, holding his breath for more than three minutes. He would go on performing this escape for the rest of his life.

Houdini died prematurely in 1926, at age 52, of peritonitis following a burst appendix that may have been caused by blows received to the abdomen by a visitor backstage at a performance in Montreal.

Following his death, Houdini's reputation as a legendary performer continued to make his name a household world in the decades that followed.

Although not well known as a film actor, Houdini's work in motion pictures was not forgotten. In a posthumous ceremony on Oct. 31, 1975, Houdini was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7001 Hollywood Blvd.

Houdini is one of several "big name" performers featured on this year's silent film program at Brandon Town Hall.

"These films are audience favorites, and people continue to be surprised at how engrossing and exhilarating they can be when shown as they were intended: in a theater, and with live music," said Rapsis, who accompanies more than 100 screenings each year at venues around the nation.

Rapsis improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

Other upcoming shows in this year's Brandon silent film series include:

• Saturday, Oct. 21: Chiller Theatre, 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1920). John Barrymore plays both title roles in the original silent film adaptation of the classic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. A spook-tacular performance that helped establish Barrymore as one of the silent era's top stars. Sponsored by an Anonymous Donor and Heritage Family Credit Union.

A 'Harry Houdini Double Feature' will be shown with live music on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Route 7, in Brandon, Vt. Admission is free; free will donations are encouraged, with proceeds to support ongoing renovation of the town hall. For more information, visit www.brandontownhall.org.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

It's elementary! Doing music for original silent 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) on Sunday, Sept. 10

William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes.

As a teenager, I read Walter Kerr's great book 'The Silent Clowns,' in which Mr. Kerr suggested it was getting very late for any missing silent film to turn up.

That was in 1975. Thankfully, his assessment hasn't been quite on the mark, as significant lost films continue to be rediscovered even now, two generations later.

Recent finds include the complete final reel of Laurel & Hardy's pie fight comedy 'Battle of the Century' (1927), and troves of U.S. films found in archives ranging from Amsterdam to New Zealand.

Even in my little corner of the world (New Hampshire, U.S.A.), we've seen discoveries that include the only known copy of Mary Pickford's first credited appearance in 'Their First Misunderstanding,' a 1911 one-reeler.

But the most impressive re-emergence in recent times, I think, is a long-lost movie that turned up complete in 2014 in the Cinémathèque Français.

It's the original film version of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916), produced by Essanay in Chicago and starring noted actor William Gillette, who originated the iconic role on stage. (That's a poster for the stage production at left.)

For nearly a century, not a trace of this film was known to exist. But since it was found complete among other Holmes-related materials in the Cinematheque's archives, it's since been restored and can now be seen for the first time since Warren G. Harding was in the White House.

I had the honor (and the pleasure) of accompanying the restoration last year up at Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport, Me., where it earned a huge ovation.

And now it's time for the Boston-area premiere, which will take place this weekend: on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

It's notable in part because it's the only film appearance of Gillette, an immensely popular (and influential) actor man of the theater for several decades on either side of 1900.

In creating 'Sherlock Holmes' for the stage, Gillette collaborated with author Arthur Conan Doyle (often by telegram from America to England) to develop the script and portray the character.

And he then went on to star as 'Sherlock Holmes' for more than three decades, racking up more than 1,300 performances in the U.S. and Europe.

Another poster for the stage production of 'Sherlock.'

In doing so, Gillette set the template for all actors who would portray Holmes from then on, from Basil Rathbone right down to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Alas, Gillette was one of those stage actors who remained loyal to the theater, never getting involved with what was known as the "flickers" early on.

So, with Gillette's only filmed appearance missing from the record, Holmes scholars and fans had no real sense of the actor's crucial contribution to the ever-growing Holmes legend and industry.

Until now!

See for yourself where the adventures of Sherlock Holmes started for so many: with William Gillette's portrayal of the iconic detective.

Along the way, you'll meet the original Dr. Watson, and many other characters, including the eternal Holmes nemesis, Professor Moriarty.

And I'm pleased to say that we'll be showing the restored 'Sherlock' via a newly struck 35mm print, which at first wasn't going to be produced.

Rob Byrne of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, who led the restoration effort, told me two years ago that 'Sherlock' would only be available via DCP, the digital cinema format.

Well, something changed, as there's a 35mm print of 'Sherlock' at the Somerville Theatre right now, in the capable hands of projectionist David Kornfeld. Yay!

So please join us. The restored 'Sherlock Holmes' will entertain and beguile you. It might also stir hope that yet more missing films will reappear, and even inspire you to look.

Anyone have a copy of 'London After Midnight' (1927) in their basement?

Here's the press release that went out, with more info about the film and the screening. See you there!

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William Gillette uses a magnifying glass in 'Sherlock Holmes.'

MONDAY, AUG. 28, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' movie to get Boston area premiere on Sunday, Sept. 10


Original film adaptation, lost for nearly a century, returns to the big screen in 35mm with live musical accompaniment, part of Somerville Theatre's 'Silents Please' series

SOMERVILLE, Mass.—The first-ever movie adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes,' a silent film released in 1916 and recently rediscovered, will screen in September at the Somerville Theatre.

The original 'Sherlock Holmes' will be shown in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.

Admission is $15 per person/$12 students and seniors.

The screening, part of the Somerville's 'Silents, Please' series, marks the Boston premiere of the recently rediscovered feature film, long considered a celluloid "Holy Grail" film scholars and Holmes fans alike.

Like many films from the silent era, the original 'Sherlock Holmes' movie was long considered completely lost until a nearly complete copy was discovered in 2014 at the Cinemathique Francaise in Paris.

The film has since been restored, allowing movie-goers to again see the only screen appearance of legendary stage actor William Gillette in his most famous role.

Gillette originated the role of Sherlock Holmes in a popular stage adaptation, collaborating with writer Arthur Conan Doyle to create the script and flesh out the character.

Gillette performed as the brilliant Holmes more than 1,300 times over three decades, touring the U.S. and Europe and popularizing Conan Doyle's sleuth.

A highly regarded stage actor, Gillette made no other known movie appearances.

But his interpretation of the Holmes character laid the groundwork for all actors who would later play the role, from Basil Rathbone to Benedict Cumberbatch.

Set in Victorian-era London, the original 'Sherlock Holmes' movie is an episodic crime drama that incorporates the plots of several Conan Doyle tales.

Running about 90 minutes, it features all major characters of the Holmes stories, including companion Dr. Watson and nemesis/rival Prof. Moriarty.

It was filmed in 1915 in the Chicago studios of the Essanay Film Co., with exterior shots of the Windy City doubling for Victorian London.

The restoration was premiered at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. The screening at the Somerville Theatre will be the first time the restoration has been shown in the Boston area.

"We're proud to be one of the few venues using the 35mm print of the restoration that's recently been made available," said Ian Judge, the Somerville Theatre's general manager. "We remain committed to showing classic film on actual film whenever possible, and we're thrilled to bring 'Sherlock' to Boston in the traditional 35mm format."

'Sherlock Holmes' will be shown with live musical accompaniment by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer regarded as one of the nation's leading silent film musicians.

Rapsis improvises live scores for silent films using a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra.

"It's kind of a high wire act," Rapsis said. "But for me, the energy of live performance is an essential part of the silent film experience."

The original ‘Sherlock Holmes' (1916), starring William Gillette in the title role, will be shown in 35mm with live music on Sunday, Sept. 10 at 2 p.m. at the Somerville Theater, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass. Admission is $15 adults, $12 students/seniors; general admission seating. For more information, call (617) 625-5700 or visit www.somervilletheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New friends, old films: Report from this year's Western NY Film Expo/Movie Memorabilia Show

A glass slide promoting 'Raffles the Amateur Cracksman' (1917).

A few notes from the just-concluded Western New York Film Expo and Movie Memorabilia Show, which took place over Labor Day weekend in Buffalo, N.Y.

The four-day schedule of film screenings included a good numbers of silents, which I was on hand to accompany.

Most were shown via 16mm collector prints, all of which looked really sharp. (Just one title was unavailable on film: Gloria Swanson's 'Zaza' (1923), recently reissued in DVD/Bluray by Kino-Lorber.)

Best of all, however, was the chance to catch up with so many people in the vintage film community. Attendees this time around included Cynthia Cozart, wife of film restoration expert James Cozart, who recently passed away.

And Gerry Orlando, longtime organizer of Cinefest down the road in Syracuse, N.Y., stopped in for a visit!

Silent titles included 'Raffles the Amateur Cracksman' (1917), an early John Barrymore feature in which Staten Island substitutes for the British countryside.

But as sometimes happens, 'Raffles' turned out to be really entertaining, with Barrymore in fine form playing cat and mouse with a hard-nosed detective. A lot of fun!

Also of interest was an original Kodascope print of 'The Lost World' (1925), the legendary "dinosaur" film adapted from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story.

The print looked fantastic: sharp and clear with great tonal values and really easy on the eyes.

But most interesting to me was how the film was abridged. Like many Kodascope prints made for the home market, it was cut down.

In its original release, 'The Lost World' ran 106 minutes. But the Kodascope version clocks in at just 55 minutes.

I'm familiar with 'Lost World' restorations that have tried to be as complete as possible, but had never encountered the Kodascope edition. So prior to the screening, I told audience members to expect what amounts to a "dinosaur highlight reel."

And so it was! The basic plot was followed, but most of the character development was excised so the film could get straight to the dinosaur scenes.

It still got a great reaction, which was nice. But I found it hard to accompany because I would be setting up for one scene that I expected, but then the film would suddenly jump way ahead!

It was like trying to dance to a record that keeps skipping.

(Does anyone play records anymore? How many people watch 16mm film, for that matter?)

A lobby card for 'Hot Water' (1924).

A personal highlight was 'Hot Water' (1924), the only Harold Lloyd silent feature film that I'd never had a chance to accompany live.

Really! I've done all the others, some many times. I've even accompanied the rare silent version of 'Welcome Danger' (1929), which Lloyd reshot and released as a talkie.

So with 'Hot Water,' I could say I was hitting for the cycle.

And what's odd about that is that 'Hot Water' was actually the very first Lloyd feature I ever got to see, although in truncated form.

That's because I was first exposed to the Lloyd features via the Time-Life 1970s re-edits of the films, which ran on PBS when I was a teenager.

As a prelude to 'Safety Last' (1923), the producers used an extended excerpt from 'Hot Water.' So when I tuned in to see Lloyd's famous building climb in 'Safety Last,' I first got a good dose of 'Hot Water.'

It's a good comedy, but generally regarded as one of Lloyd's lesser efforts. As such, it almost never gets shown. And over the years, I've wound up accompanying all the Lloyds except this one.

Well, that changed at this year's N.Y. Film Expo, where I created music for it as 'Hot Water' (via another sparkling 16mm print) drew big laughs.

Also on the bill were Keaton's classic feature comedy 'The Navigator' (1924), and also Gloria Swanson's costume vehicle 'Zaza' (1923).

The latter was recently brought out on DVD/Bluray by Kino-Lorber with a recorded score by me. So it was a special privilege to recreate the music live at this year's N.Y. Film Expo.

Response was gratifying and I received many nice comments afterwards.

So thanks to organizer Alex Bartosh and everyone associated with the N.Y. Film Expo.

Nice to see a lot of familiar faces, and looking forward to the next edition of the event, which is set for Labor Day Weekend 2018!

Thursday, August 10, 2017

We're off to see the Wizard—and also Gloria Swanson, Buster Keaton, and the future

No, not the one with Judy Garland—it's Larry Semon's silent film version of the iconic tale, on screen at the Flying Monkey in Plymouth, N.H. on Thursday, Aug. 10.

Happy mid-August! The next four days bring four screenings in three states, and films that take us to Oz, France, the American West, and a city of the future.

Here's a quick round-up:

• Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: "The Wizard of Oz" (1925) starring Larry Semon; The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.; (603) 536-2551; http://www.flyingmonkeynh.com/. Early silent film version of Frank L. Baum's immortal tales features silent comedian Larry Semon in a slapstick romp that also casts Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. Oz as you've never seen it before! Part of a monthly silent film series at a newly restored moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. Admission, $10 per person.

Some original promotional art for 'Zaza,' starring Gloria Swanson and H.B. Warner.

• Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, "Zaza" (1923) starring Gloria Swanson, H.B. Warner. Vintage Dance Weekend, Knights of Columbus Hall, Nahant, Mass. Private event not open to the general public. Romance set in France in which Swanson plays a hot-tempered provincial actress who gets entangled with a married diplomat. Swanson's ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it "the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made."

Buster Keaton and co-star Brown Eyes in 'Go West.'

• Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Main Street/Route 7, Brandon, Vt.; http://www.brandontownhall.org. Buster heads out to ranch country, where the stone-faced comedian encounters romance with—a cow! Can he save his love from a trip to the livestock yards? Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must once again prove himself worthy to all those who doubt him. Join us for a series of silent films and live music in a wonderfully restored town hall in Brandon Vt. that features great acoustics. Admission free, donations accepted, with proceeds to help continuing preservation work.

From 'Metropolis': it just wouldn't be a city of the future without a giant mechanical gong!

• Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, 7:30 p.m. "Metropolis" (1927) directed by Fritz Lang; Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission $10 per person, limited seating. The eye-popping silent film sci-fi masterpiece of German filmmaker Fritz Lang is a vintage look at things to come. Restored version includes nearly a half-hour of lost footage that was rediscovered in Argentina in 2008. Seen in its entirety and with live music, 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future that came to pass: us! Part of the Aeronaut Brewery's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance. Limited seating so reserve early; for more details on tickets, visit Aeronaut Brewing. online.

It would have been five screenings in five days, but I gave up a slot at the Harvard Film Archive on Monday, Aug. 14 so that fellow accompanist Andrew E. Simpson could make a much-anticipated visit to the Boston area.

If you're interested in hearing one of the most talented accompanists in the field, get thee to the Harvard Film Archive next Monday night to hear Andrew do his stuff for Ernst Lubitsch's 'The Wildcat.' Here's the listing:

• Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Die Bergkatze/The Wildcat" or "The Mountain Cat" (1921), directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. (617) 496-3211. Admission $9 per person, $7 for non-Harvard students, Harvard faculty and staff, and senior citizens; free for Harvard students. Part of a summer-long retrospective of the work of director Ernst Lubitsch. Amidst delightfully bizarre décor—framed by altering screen shapes—a stalwart bandit chaser falls for bandit’s daughter Pola Negri. Lubitsch’s German comedy masterpiece is "both an anti-militarist satire and a wonderful fairy tale" (John Gillett). For this screening, I'm pleased to have accompanist Andrew E. Simpson sit in at the keyboard!

And another special note: earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be asked to do a piano score for Kino-Lorber's re-issue of 'Zaza.' The disc is now out, and just this week I received a box of copies that I can make available to fans at screenings.

And, thanks to the kind folks at Kino-Lorber, I'm able to make them available at a discount off the published retail price. But you can only get this deal by attending a screening!

So I'll have them with me until the stock runs out. If you'd like me to save one for you, please send me a note indicated standard DVD or Blu-ray and I'll set a copy aside.

P.S. This Sunday, I'm being interviewed by Harvard Magazine for a story about the art of silent film accompaniment. So I may not have made it into Harvard, but at least I'll be in the magazine!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August: Returning to a heavy schedule
of improvisation in darkened theatres

Buster and his co-star Brown Eyes in 'Go West' (1925), which I'll accompany in several venues this month.

People think of movie theaters as dark places, and they are.

Except when a movie is playing.

When doing live music, I find more often than not I don't need any kind of lamp or light to see the keyboard. Often, the ambient light from the screen is quite enough.

This is true so often for me because the digital keyboard I have is relatively flat, and also because I'm usually down below the screen.

So the keys are generally bathed in some kind of light flooding off the screen, which makes it easy to see when I need to.

Of course when the screen goes dark, I can easily get lost, which accounts for some spectacularly dissonant final chords at some screenings.

The only time a light is really needed, I've found, is when I'm playing a traditional acoustic piano.

Whether upright or grand, these are shaped in a way that if you're facing the screen, the location of the keyboard will almost always be deep in shadows. The light is blocked.

In this case, you really would be in the dark if you didn't have a light.

Looking ahead, August brings me back to a fairly busy schedule of film screenings in locations both close to home and fairly distant.

I've just sent out an update to my e-mail list, and figured I'd post it here for perusal.

If you'd like to receive a monthly update of upcoming screenings, just let me know (click on the link at right) and I'll add your e-mail to the list.

For now, here's what's on the docket:

Silent Film / Live Music screenings August / September 2017


Hi film fans,

A great line-up of silent film programs with live music awaits in the coming weeks.

Highlights include 'Anna Boleyn' (1920), a rarely screened Ernest Lubitsch historical drama at the Harvard Film Archive; a 35mm screening of the recently rediscovered 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) at the Somerville Theatre; and some rarely shown movies starring Harry Houdini in September.

Labor Day weekend finds me at the Western N.Y. Film Expo in Buffalo, N.Y., where I'll accompany an extensive line-up of silent features and short films.

Details listings below. Hope to see you at a screening real soon!

• Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2017, 6 p.m.: "Christine of the Big Tops" (1926) starring Pauline Garon, Cullen Landis; Carpenter Memorial Auditorium, Manchester Public Library, 405 Pine St., Manchester, N.H.; (603) 624-6550; Manchester Public Library. Raised in a traveling circus, young orphan Christine is eager to prove her worth on the trapeze. But her real challenge is choosing between the affections of her Guardian and a young doctor. Monthly series of rarely screened silent films presented with live music in 1913 auditorium. Admission free, donations encouraged.

• Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, 7:30 p.m.: "Grandma's Boy" (1922) starring Harold Lloyd, Mildred Davis; The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.; (781) 648-6022; http://capitoltheatreusa.com/. Admission $12, $10 student/senior. A cowardly young man must learn to conquer his fears before dealing with a larger menace to his community. Riotous small town comedy that helped propel Harold Lloyd into the most popular movie comedian of the 1920s. Bonus Lloyd short comedy: "Never Weaken" (1921). Silent film with live music at a terrific locally owned neighborhood cinema!

• Friday, Aug. 4, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Anna Boleyn" (1920) directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. (617) 496-3211. Admission $9 per person, $7 for non-Harvard students, Harvard faculty and staff, and senior citizens; free for Harvard students. Part of a summer-long retrospective of the work of director Ernst Lubitsch. Emil Jannings’ tour-de-force as Henry VIII highlights the most impressive of Lubitsch’s spectacles, with Henny Porten as the eponymous Anna.

• Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017, 4:30 p.m.: "Wagon Tracks" (1919) starring William S. Hart; Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Our summer series, The Birth of the Western, continues with 'Wagon Tracks' (1919). William S. Hart as Buckskin Hamilton, guiding a wagon train across the wasteland, caring well for the pioneers he escorts, but also hoping to solve the murder of his brother by one of the travelers. Monthly series of silent films with live music at a theater where movies have been shown since 1912! Admission free, donations of $5 per person encouraged.

• Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: "The Wizard of Oz" (1925) starring Larry Semon; The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.; (603) 536-2551; http://www.flyingmonkeynh.com/. Early silent film version of Frank L. Baum's immortal tales features silent comedian Larry Semon in a slapstick romp that also casts Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. Oz as you've never seen it before! Part of a monthly silent film series at a newly restored moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. Admission, $10 per person.

• Friday, Aug. 11, 20117, "Zaza" (1923) starring Gloria Swanson, H.B. Warner. Vintage Dance Weekend, Nahant, Mass. Details to be announced. Romance set in France in which Swanson plays a hot-tempered provincial actress who gets entangled with a married diplomat. Swanson s ebullience in Zaza was unfeigned; she called it "the fastest, easiest, most enjoyable picture I ever made."

• Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Main Street/Route 7, Brandon, Vt.; http://www.brandontownhall.org. Buster heads out to ranch country, where the stone-faced comedian encounters romance with—a cow! Can he save his love from a trip to the livestock yards? Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must once again prove himself worthy to all those who doubt him. Join us for a series of silent films and live music in a wonderfully restored town hall in Brandon Vt. that features great acoustics. Admission free, donations accepted, with proceeds to help continuing preservation work.

• Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017, 7:30 p.m. "Metropolis" (1927) directed by Fritz Lang; Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St., Somerville, Mass. Admission $10 per person, limited seating. The eye-popping silent film sci-fi masterpiece of German filmmaker Fritz Lang is a vintage look at things to come. Restored version includes nearly a half-hour of lost footage that was rediscovered in Argentina in 2008. Seen in its entirety and with live music, 'Metropolis' stands as an stunning example of the power of silent film to tell a compelling story without words, and reach across the generations to touch movie-goers from the real future that came to pass: us! Part of the Aeronaut Brewery's commitment to showcase local music, art, and performance. Limited seating so reserve early; for more details on tickets, visit Aeronaut Brewing. online.

Guest accompanist Andrew E. Simpson!
• Monday, Aug. 14, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Die Bergkatze/The Wildcat" or "The Mountain Cat" (1921), directed by Ernst Lubitsch. Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Mass. (617) 496-3211. Admission $9 per person, $7 for non-Harvard students, Harvard faculty and staff, and senior citizens; free for Harvard students. Part of a summer-long retrospective of the work of director Ernst Lubitsch. Amidst delightfully bizarre décor—framed by altering screen shapes—a stalwart bandit chaser falls for bandit’s daughter Pola Negri. Lubitsch’s German comedy masterpiece is "both an anti-militarist satire and a wonderful fairy tale" (John Gillett). For this screening, I'm pleased to have accompanist Andrew E. Simpson sit in at the keyboard!

• Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Sherlock Holmes" (1916) starring William Gillette; Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; http://www.leavittheatre.com. Recently discovered in France after being lost for nearly a century, see this original 1916 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories as performed by William Gillette, the actor who created the role on stage. See great silent films with live music in a summer-only theater opened in 1923 and barely changed since. Admission $10 per person.

• Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, 1:45 p.m.: "Sleeping Beauty" (1908) and "Snow White" (1916); silent film at the Toronto International Film Festival Cinematheque. "Sleeping Beauty": A beautifully designed adaptation of the Perrault fairy tale, brought to the screen by top Pathé director Albert Capellani. "Snow White": An underrated gem of the silent era, this 1916 adaptation of Snow White is one of the few surviving films of the appealingly childlike Marguerite Clark, who was one of Hollywood's biggest stars of the period. Based on Winthrop Ames' 1912 stage play (which also featured Clark in the title role), this version of the beloved tale substantially departs from the original Brothers Grimm story, most notably by dividing the character of Snow White's nemesis between the evil Queen Brangomar (Dorothy Cumming) and a witch named Hex (Alice Washburn).

• Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017, 4:30 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. We conclude our 'Birth of the Western' series with Buster's ranch comedy about the stone-faced comedian and his enduring romance with—a cow! Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must prove himself worthy once again. Monthly series of silent films with live music at a theater where movies have been shown since 1912! Admission free, donations of $5 per person encouraged.

• Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Celebrating Billy B Van"; Historical Society of Cheshire County; 246 Main St., Keene, N.H.; (603) 352-1895 ; www.HSCCNH.org. The Newport Historical Society brings to life Billy B. Van: “The Sunshine Peddler”. This multi-media (~60 min.) presentation brings to life a book of the same name by Jayna Hooper. The presentation celebrates Billy B. Van, his many outstanding accomplishments and his contributions to American culture that still bear fruit today. It includes slides of his many products, his music, quotes in character, and a 1920 silent film named the “Plucky Hoodoo,” starring Billy B. Van and filmed in the Georges Mills, N.H. area. From a vaudeville and Broadway performer to author, dairy farmer, soap maker, radio personality, motivational speaker Billy left sunshine in his wake during the darkest days of The Great Depression. Free admission.

• Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, 7 p.m.: "Go West" (1925) starring Buster Keaton; Leavitt Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; http://www.leavittheatre.com. Buster's ranch comedy about the stone-faced comedian and his enduring romance with—a cow! Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must prove himself worthy once again. See great silent films with live music in a summer-only theater opened in 1923 and barely changed since. Admission $10 per person.

• Friday, Aug. 25, 2017, 7 p.m. "Buster Keaton Double Feature"; Regent Theatre, 7 Medford St., Arlington, Mass; (781) 646-4849. Join us for a pair of Buster Keaton's best comedies. In 'Sherlock Jr.' (1924), Keaton plays a small-town movie projectionist who dreams of being a detective. In 'Three Ages' (1923), Keaton spoofs historical dramas by seeking true love in three differing epochs. Great physical comedy plus Buster's deadpan attitude will have you laughing out loud. Silent film with live music in a treasured neighborhood theater and performance space.

• Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017, 2 p.m.: "Get Your Man" (1927) starring Clara Bow, Buddy Rogers; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.; http://www.somervilletheatreonline.com. Long-lost Clara Bow feature only recently rescued and restored by the Library of Congress. Bow is Nancy Worthington, a liberated (of course) American in Paris who meets cute with French nobleman Robert Albin (Rogers) while on vacation by herself. Robert and Nancy fall hard for each other, but an arranged, politically motivated marriage stands in their way. Nancy scams her way onto the family estate, and complications ensue. Silent film shown in 35mm on the big screen with live music. Part of a monthly series at the Somerville Theatre, a wonderful 100-year-old moviehouse committed to keeping alive the experience of 35mm film. Featuring outstandingly exacting work of legendary projectionist David Kornfeld. For more info, call the theater box office at (617) 625-5700. Admission $15 per person.

• Friday, Sept. 1 through Monday, Sept. 4, 2017: The Western New York Movie Expo and Memorabilia Show, Hilton Garden Inn, 4201 Genesee St., Cheektowaga, N.Y.; (716) 565-0040 Four-day successor to Cinefest, annual vintage film festival in Syracuse, N.Y. that ended in 2015. Silent features with live music include: "Burn ‘em Up Barnes" (1921) starring Johnny Hines; "Hot Water" (1924) starring Harold Lloyd; "The Juggernaut" (1915) starring Anita Stewart and Earle Williams; "Little Orphant Annie" (1918) starring Colleen Moore; a Kodascope print of "The Lost World" (1925) starring Wallace Beery and Bessie Love; "The Navigator" (1924) starring Buster Keaton; "Raffles, the Amateur Cracksman" (1917) starring John Barrymore; and "Zaza" starring Gloria Swanson. Plus many short subjects, including the restored full-length "Battle of the Century" pie fight with Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.

• Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2017, 6 p.m.: "The Shield of Honor" (1927) starring Neil Hamilton; Carpenter Memorial Auditorium, Manchester Public Library, 405 Pine St., Manchester, N.H.; (603) 624-6550; Manchester Public Library. Long before he played Commissioner Gordon in the iconic 1960s 'Batman' TV show, Neil Hamilton was a leading man, saving the day and getting the girl in a steady stream of films throughout the silent era. This vintage crime drama is a good example of his output. Monthly series of rarely screened silent films presented with live music in 1913 auditorium. Admission free, donations encouraged.

• Thursday, September 7, 2017, 6:30 p.m.: "The Adventures of Prince Achmed" (1926) directed by Lotte Reiniger; The Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center, 39 South Main St., Plymouth, N.H.; (603) 536-2551; http://www.flyingmonkeynh.com/. Taken from 'The Arabian Nights,' the first full-length animated feature tells the story of a wicked sorcerer who tricks Prince Achmed into mounting a magical flying horse, sending him off to a series of wondrous and romantic adventures. A masterful example of silhouette-style animation and a true breakthrough in cinematic story-telling. Part of a monthly silent film series at a newly restored moviehouse in Plymouth, N.H. Admission, $10 per person.

• Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017, 2 p.m.: "Sherlock Holmes" (1916) starring William Gillette; Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville, Mass.; http://www.somervilletheatreonline.com. Recently discovered in France after being lost for nearly a century, see this original 1916 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories as performed by William Gillette, the actor who created the role on stage. Silent film shown in 35mm on the big screen with live music. Part of a monthly series at the Somerville Theatre, a wonderful 100-year-old moviehouse committed to keeping alive the experience of 35mm film. Featuring outstandingly exacting work of legendary projectionist David Kornfeld. For more info, call the theater box office at (617) 625-5700. Admission $15 per person.

• Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017, 7 p.m.: "The Little American" (1917) starring Mary Pickford, directed by Cecil B. DeMille; Historical Society of Cheshire County; 246 Main St., Keene, N.H.; (603) 352-1895 ; www.HSCCNH.org. Current events drama in which American woman (Pickford) is in love with both a German and a French soldier during World War I. Production began only a week after the U.S. declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, and the movie was released in July, making it one of the first to reflect on the attitude of American involvement at the time. Part of the Historical Society's look at U.S. involvement in World War I. Free admission.

• Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017, 8 p.m.: "Tol'able David" (1921) starring Richard Barthelmess; The Capitol Theatre, 204 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Mass.; (781) 648-6022; http://capitoltheatreusa.com/. A farm family is poor but content until unsavory distant relatives unexpectedly arrive while on the lam from the law. Compelling story, plus filmed on location in back country Virginia, making for an amazing time capsule into America's vanished rural past. Admission $12, $10 student/senior. Silent film with live music at a terrific locally owned neighborhood cinema!

• Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017, 7 p.m.: Harry Houdini Silent Film Double Feature!; Brandon Town Hall and Community Center, Main Street/Route 7, Brandon, Vt.; http://www.brandontownhall.org. Rare surviving films from the great illusionist's brief movie career. In 'Terror Island' (1920) Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves; in 'The Man From Beyond' (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love. Join us for a series of silent films and live music in a wonderfully restored town hall in Brandon Vt. that features great acoustics. Admission free, donations accepted, with proceeds to help continuing preservation work.

• Sunday, Sept. 17, 2017, Silent film screening, part of Vintage Dance Weekend in Hartford, Conn. Details TBA.

• Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, 8 p.m.: "Speedy" (1928) starring Harold Lloyd; the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, 310 Genesee St., Utica, N.Y.; (315)797-0000; www.mwpai.org. Admission charge to be announced. Harold's final silent feature is a tribute to New York City, baseball, and the idea that nice guys can indeed finish first. Complete with an extended cameo from none other than Babe Ruth! Part of the Institute's summer exhibition Roaring into the Future: New York, 1925-35. More details to come.

• Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017, 4:30 p.m.: "Harry Houdini Silent Film Double Feature"; Wilton Town Hall Theatre, Main Street, Wilton, N.H.; (603) 654-3456; www.wiltontownhalltheatre.com. Rare surviving films from the great illusionist's brief movie career. In 'Terror Island' (1920) Houdini stars as a swashbuckling inventor who steers his high-tech submarine to a forbidden tropical isle to rescue the woman he loves; in 'The Man From Beyond' (1922), Houdini plays a man frozen 100 years in the Arctic who returns to civilization to reclaim his reincarnated love. Monthly series of silent films with live music at a theater where movies have been shown since 1912! Admission free, donations of $5 per person encouraged.

• Friday, Sept. 29 and Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017, "The Buster Keaton Celebration"; Bowlus Fine Arts Center in beautiful downtown Iola, Kansas. Two days of Keaton-focused panels, films, and fellowship not far from Keaton's rural Kansas birthplace. Rumor has it this might be the last Keaton Celebration ever! For more info, check out their Web site.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Sunday, 7/30 in Wilton, N.H.: a double feature starring legendary stuntman Yakima Canutt


He doubled for Clark Gable during the burning of Atlanta in "Gone With The Wind." He enjoyed a long-time friendship with John Wayne, whom he taught how to fall off a horse.

But long before he became one of Hollywood's legendary stunt men, Yakima Canutt had a career in front of the camera.

During the silent era, "Yak" starred in a series of Westerns that featured his expertise in horsemanship, trick riding, and rodeo skills.

We'll show two of his surviving features, 'Branded a Bandit' (1924) and 'The Iron Rider' (1926), on Sunday, July 30 at 4:30 p.m. at the Wilton (N.H.) Town Hall Theatre.

It's the latest installment of our summer-long "Birth of the Western" series. And no series about the origins of Hollywood westerns would be complete without Yakima Canutt.

(The last name, by the way, is pronounced "Ca-Nute.")

Both of the films we're showing are classic fare—the kind of fast-paced adventure film that Hollywood was learning to crank out in quantity to keep theaters filled and audiences happy.

It's also an interesting look at a figure who would be influential in years to come.

In his early on-camera days, Canutt was just as daring as anyone, risking life and limb to get just the right shot.

Take this passage from Canutt's Wikipedia entry:
"It was in Branded a Bandit (1924) that his nose was broken in a 12-foot fall from a cliff. The picture was delayed several weeks, and when it resumed, Canutt's close shots were from the side. A plastic surgeon reset the nose, which healed, inspiring Canutt to remark that he thought it looked better."
But later, he used his hard-won experience to stage stunts that were no less spectacular, but which minimized the risks faced by performers.

His long career included work on Golden Age blockbusters such as 'Ben Hur' (1959) and 'El Cid' (1961), and in Walt Disney productions such as 'The Swiss Family Robinson' (1960), one of the most memorable films of my early childhood.

Canutt remained active in the business into his 80s, his last credit being 'Equus' in 1977.

But his influence could still be seen on the big screen. 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' (1981), for example, contains a specific tribute to Canutt's work.

We'll let Wikipedia once again tell the story:
It was while working on Mascot serials that Canutt practiced and perfected his most famous stunts, including the drop from a stagecoach that he would employ in John Ford's 1939 Stagecoach. That famous stunt in Stagecoach was filmed near Chimney Rock on Rabbit Dry Lake, west of Lucerne Valley, California. He first did it in Riders of the Dawn in 1937 while doubling for Jack Randall.[2] In his 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Steven Spielberg paid homage to Canutt, recreating the stunt when stuntman Terry Leonard (doubling for Harrison Ford) 'dropped' from the front of a German transport truck, was dragged underneath (along a prepared trench) and then climbed up the back and round to the front again.
Wow! From silent films to 'Raiders.' Pretty impressive!

Canutt died in 1986, at age 90.

But he'll return to the silver screen on Sunday with two of his starring pictures. See you there—and get ready to cheer on 'Yak' as he rides to the rescue!

Monday, July 10, 2017

How I survived Mother Nature's Car Wash,
plus waking up with Dixieland's 'Late Risers'

Does Harold Lloyd's comedy 'Safety Last' (1923) lend itself to the same Dixieland musical treatment as Woody Allen's 1973 film 'Sleeper'? We'll find out.

Dear Diary: Well, I can't complain that I lead a boring life. Consider just the past three days...

• Last Friday, we enjoyed dinner with Romeo (pronounced "ro MAY oh") Melloni, a composer based here in New Hampshire, and his wife Elizabeth, a well known pianist and accompanist.

Much of our conversation was not about music, but about car repairs and home delivery of dishwashers. Yes, this is what musicians talk about when they get together.

But we did compare projects, and I described what I had coming up that Sunday afternoon: I would lead a Boston-based Dixieland jazz ensemble, "Sammy D and the Late Risers," in a live score to Harold Lloyd's great silent comedy 'Safety Last.'

Did I know the musicians? No. Had we rehearsed? Of course not!

But what could go wrong?

And that same day, I'd then do a live score (solo this time) for the Ernest Lubitsch comedy 'So This Is Paris' (1926) at the Harvard Film Archive.

Romeo and Elizabeth both laughed, and Romeo proclaimed that I lead such an interesting life.

Little did I know how interesting the weekend would get!

• On Saturday, a hot mid-summer day found me on my bike about four miles from home when a towering wall of black clouds appeared in the northwest.

I had checked the weather radar before setting out—a line of storms was moving in from the west, but was still far away.

The Weather Service did have a storm warning in place, but it wasn't set to start until 2 p.m. I'd be back long before then.

It was now 1:30 p.m., and the black wall was coming in fast, already blotting out the mid-day sun. Hadn't Mother Nature checked with the Weather Service?

I was pedaling away on what we call "the old Route 3" in Bedford, still figuring the odds of getting home dry, when the first big drops landed.

BIG drops: first a few, then more, with the sky quickly darkening further.

I was on an incline leading to a bridge over the F.E. Everett Turnpike when the deluge hit.

And I could see it coming. Up ahead, gusting winds were blowing heavy rain down onto the road in sheets, actually kicking up dust ahead of it!

Already wet, I kept pedaling straight into it, still thinking I could somehow make it home before...

And boom! It was like riding into a carwash. I was instantly soaked to the skin, and nearly blown off my bike.

I pedaled ahead, unable to see due to wind-driven rain blowing straight at me, but aware there was a car behind me with a driver who probably couldn't see anything either.

Just then, my cell phone in my backpack started sound a "severe weather" alert alarm. "Yeah, I know," I thought.

Another gust nearly toppled me, and then the wind just howled from the northwest, driving rain horizontally. Thunder roared overhead.

I was on an exposed highway embankment. I dismounted and held onto the bike to brace myself against the wind, which was making signs do that rapid back-and-forth dance that signs do in bad weather.

Instinct kicked in. I had to take cover, so sprinted down the grassy embankment to at least get out of the wind, carrying my bike with me.

I found myself near a wooden utility pole, one side of which was still dry thanks to the horizontal rain blasting from one direction.

So I maneuvered behind the pole and stood up straight behind it as the wind roared all around, shielding myself from the worst of the rain.

Thunder was now cracking and booming all around. (But no lightning.) The powerlines above were being bowed out by the wind, which was causing the pole itself to bend and sway.

I kept thinking, "the worse it is, the faster it's over." But this didn't let up for maybe 15 minutes!

The wind finally died down enough for me to emerge and begin walking my bike over the bridge. Roads were turned into temporary rivers with the run-off.

Both my bike and I were absolutely drenched, and I was sure my cell phone and wallet had been ruined. (I had thought briefly about putting them in a plastic bag before the ride, but felt it wasn't necessary. Ooops!)

I eventually got back on the bike, riding it through water-choked streets without regard for the spray it kicked onto me, and completed the ride home.

Amazingly, the phone was fine! And the wallet, too. I had somehow folded the bag to keep them relatively dry.

Afterwards, I felt great! Part of it was having encountered a frightening and potentially dangerous situation, and coming out of it okay. Another aspect was more mundane: getting totally soaked, I got a shower during my bike ride instead of after it. This felt really refreshing, like I'd just swum in a lake. I should do it more often!

(The next day, news reports had the storm carrying 55 mph winds. I can believe it!)

All this was a prelude to:

Harold Lloyd in 'Safety Last' (1923): appropriate considering the time pressures we were under.

• On Sunday, July 9, I made the hour's drive down to Boston early. I had to set up what would be the only rehearsal to accompany a silent film screening that afternoon at the Somerville Theatre.

I would be working with "Sammy D and the Late Risers," a group of Dixieland players joining me to score Harold Lloyd's great comedy 'Safety Last' (1923).

All this was arranged months ago, but everyone's schedule is busy, and it worked out that the only time we could all get together was the morning of the show.

Thus it was necessary for me to head down early for a Sunday 9 a.m. call for a group with "Late Risers" in its name.

Because the Somerville's main theater is rented by a church every Sunday, we had to rehearse in one of the smaller cinemas upstairs.

Alas, I found them to be what you'd expect movie theaters to be: except for the exit signs, completely dark.

After much fumbling around, I finally called projectionist David Kornfeld, who clued me into where the switch for the cleaning lights is hidden.

Great! Except nothing happened. Darkness reigned. (I later found out they haven't worked for years. And then again, seeing a movie theater with the lights on is probably not a pretty sight.)

Still, I got everything arranged. This included mounting a portable TV/DVD player on a wooden chair, which itself was balanced on two purloined trash receptacles. That made it high enough for everyone to see. Ah, the arts!

Of the five "Late Risers," three arrived on schedule and began setting up around me.

Percussionist Grant Smith, clarinet player Austin Yancey, and tuba player Josiah Reibstein—all had worked together often and I immediately felt at ease.

But we couldn't start going through the film just yet because my disc with 'Safety Last' was being brought by a band members who hadn't arrived.

After 10 a.m., we decided to go through the cues, which I had inventoried beforehand.

In putting together a score for 'Safety Last' that used a Dixieland band, I had two things in mind:

- I hoped to create the same kind of feel that Woody Allen had created with Dixieland music in 'Sleeper' (1973).

I remember the first time I saw 'Sleeper' (when it was broadcast on TV as the "ABC Movie of the Week" or somesuch when I was a kid) and it all instantly clicked.

Long before I ever studied music, I knew this was a perfect match: to me, Dixieland and broad physical comedy were like chocolate and peanut butter.

So just as Woody used Dixieland (with himself sitting in on clarinet with the Preservation Hall band from New Orleans) for sequences of slapstick in 'Sleeper,' I felt the same treatment would work really well with 'Safety Last.'

Part of this also grows from my fondness for the much-reviled "Time-Life" editions of Harold's films that circulated in the 1970s.

These are acknowledged to be badly edited reissues of Harold's comedies, complete the with goofy theme song "Hooray for Harold Lloyd," by none other than Neal Hefti, composer of the iconic theme for the 1960s "Batman" TV series.

But their one saving grace, I think, was the music scoring done by a little-known arranger, Don Hulette, who put together Dixieland tracks that were used for all Harold's features in the 1970s.

These were performed by a pick-up group of fantastic players identified only as the "Crescent City Jazz Band." (As a kid, I somehow thought that "Crescent City" meant Kansas City, but that's another story. And the tracks were actually recorded in London!)

Here's a sample of the music, which strikes me as just about perfect for so much of silent comedy. Some is raucous, some is sentimental. I could listen to it all day!

So that was what I was aiming for with Sammy D and the Late Risers.

- The other thing: it was really important that the Dixieland be used where it could help the comedy sequences strut, but that it otherwise keep out of the way of Harold's story and all the emotions it encompasses.

One of the great glories of the silent film experience is when an audience gets swept up in gales of laughter. And I've found this doesn't happen automatically or all at once. It's actually often triggered by just a few people who start.

They get a few others going, and if this continues, everyone gets freed up to start laughing. And eventually you get landslides and total avalanches of laughter.

However, I've observed that this process can be short-circuited. Sometimes, if the music is too loud or too much too soon, it prevents people from hearing that first, crucial laughter in those around them.

And if people can't hear others laughing, they themselves don't start laughing. And thus the spontaneous combustion doesn't combust, no matter what funny or amazing things happen on screen.

So it's been my practice, especially with comedies, to keep the music as simple and spare as possible to allow the audience to hear itself.

Once the laughter starts—well, then you can amp it up and go anywhere. But do too much too soon, and you squelch the laughter before it has a chance to ignite.

Thus it was really important to impress upon the Dixieland players that less is often more. I wanted to be careful to give 'Safety Last' every opportunity to do what it was intended to do: to fire up an audience and then take it a roller coaster ride like none other in cinema.

As we ran through the cues, the guys seemed to get this instinctively, which was great!

What was not great was that the player with the disc was still a no-show, forcing us to work through the music without the movie, which none of the other musicians had ever seen.

But even as we reached our noon-time break point, I wasn't concerned. First, there simply wasn't time to be worried—not with having to move all our stuff down into the main theater and set up for the show.

Also, I knew the film, and they knew the music, and even without two of the players, we sounded pretty good.

Our banjo player, Tev Stevig, arrived after lunch, which had been expected expected.

But what about the missing player with the disc? Well, sometime after noon I got a call saying he couldn't make it, but efforts were underway to find a sub.

It would be a trombone player, rather than trumpet. Okay. And when was he expected? Probably about 20 minute before the show.

Wow! But I have to say, I really didn't mind. Nothing like a little last-minute tension to keep everyone focused. And guys were really that good.

And besides, this had to happen when you're working with a band called "The Late Risers."

At 1 p.m. in the Somerville's big theater, we had our one chance to play through some cues with the 35mm print running on the screen, to get a sense of what that would be like.

Then at 1:30 p.m., it was time to open the house. To my surprise, a hoard of people stampeded in, and kept coming!

Among them was our trombone player, Quinn Carson. The band was already playing some warm-up tunes, and Quinn wasted no time in joining in, first with trombone, and then jazzy vocal solos.

Here's us before the show. The keyboard player was absent because he was taking the picture.

The crowd kept building and so did the energy, as we pushed though a few more tunes, with me joining in where appropriate.

And then after an introduction from theater manager Ian Judge, I got to welcome the crowd. Clarinet player Austin Yancey introduced the players, as I was sure I'd forget someone's name.

I kept my intro to the film short, and then off we went—first me on keyboard with some open fifths up high, to create a magical atmosphere.

Then house lights down. Curtain open, and then cue band for our opening number: Gershwin's 'Fidgety Feet,' which served as the film's theme song and would return several times, including at the very end.

We nailed the first set of tight cues: I cut off the band at the opening scene, where it looks like Harold is about to be hanged at a prison. Somber music for strings only from the keyboard.

But then the scene abruptly changes to show Harold's actually at a train station about to leave for the big city. Great sight gag that can really be punched up if the music turns at just the right moment, and I counted off so it hit the spot exactly. Yes!

(By the way, I don't recall anyone ever commenting on the symbolism of the "death row" imagery that starts 'Safety Last.' Despite its comic intent, Harold does indeed come close to dying many times much later on, and all because of the journey he made at the start of the film. There's something darker to 'Safety Last' and its premise that one's status is defined by the pursuit of status and material goods. But that's for another post.)

And off we went, alternating between band cues and with me at the keyboard, usually just with strings to serve as a contrast to the Dixieland. I was concerned it might be too jarring to shift back and forth like this, especially as the band players were unmiked, but the keyboard was coming through the house sound system. But it all seemed to work.

As we went, I felt the band was pushing a little too hard, so I had to keep bringing them down to play quietly, and then amping it back up when a scene called for it. They responded beautifully.

And to my delight, I could hear laughter behind me: at first some good solid laughs where you'd expect, such as when Harold and his roommate hide from their landlord underneath their overcoats.

As 'Safety Last' progressed, the laughs built and became more solid and consistent. So I felt we were all primed for the film's amazing climax—where Harold has to climb a building.

I've been to screenings of 'Safety Last' where the suspense of this sequence has led to audiences literally shrieking en masse as Harold slips, grips, and trips his way up the tower, encountering all manner of obstacles along the way.

There's tension, which by itself rivets an audience. But there's a steady procession of gags, which produce laughter energized by the tension. If everything clicks, Harold's building climb is one of the great thrill rides of the cinema, even today.

I'm delighted to say it all came together at the Somerville on Sunday. We had it all: laughs, shouts, gasps, cries of "oh no!" and several rounds of applause as Harold cleared various ledges on his way up. This is an unscientific comparison, but the amount of energy released by the audience during the last 15 minutes of 'Safety Last' easily surpassed a day's output of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant.

At the end, we had one last tricky set of cues to get through: the "love music" when Harold and Mildred embrace, then a reprise of the "drunk" music for one final revisit of a running gag where an inebriated gentleman simply cannot untangle himself from a tennis net, and then back to "Fidgety Feet" as we faded out and went to the end titles. Curtain closed, lights up.

And then came a thunderous ovation that reminded me of the storm I'd encountered yesterday! Our audience—which I found out later was the largest ever for the Somerville's "Silents Please!" series—rose to its feet, cheering and shouting.

I had the guys stand, and we took several rounds of bows, individually and as a group. Applause continued. To paraphrase Sally Field: they really like us!

And "us" means, first and foremost, Harold. His film had done what it's always had the power to do. And I was delighted to think that the music we'd played had somehow helped it work its magic.

And I said to myself: this is about as good as it gets!

It took awhile for applause to die off to the point where I could say a few closing remarks and thank everyone. And then I felt like Lawrence Welk, counting off the band for some exit music: "And a one, and a two..."

Afterwards, we spoke to so many people who brought kind comments and compliments. What a treat! We were still there more than an hour later, when we had to be reminded that another show was due to start soon.

And so the Late Risers and I went our separate ways—for now. I really enjoyed working with them, and I think the approach we took to 'Safety Last' would work well with certain other films, and not necessarily all comedies. We'll see.

I then had an enjoyable dinner with Allen Feinstein, director of bands at Northeastern University, and a veteran of the Boston music scene who seems to know everyone. Allen not only knew our trombone player Quinn, but as a long-time advisor to Harvard's Hasty Pudding shows, he'd worked with Ron Duvernay, a classmate who played sousaphone with me in the Nashua High School band more than 30 years ago. (But who's counting? All right, me.)


This was followed by a whole different gig: solo accompaniment for 'So This Is Paris' (1926), the Ernst Lubitsch comedy that celebrates adultery and the Charleston. It was screening at the Harvard Film Archive as part of a summer-long Lubitsch retrospective, and I had agreed to do music long before I thought of how exhausted I'd be after a day playing Dixieland on the cosmic edge.

I went into the breech anyway—and to my surprise, I suddenly turned into a combination of Jacques Offenbach and Carl Stalling.

Really! I wasn't quite sure what material I'd use for the film, other than the actual "Charleston" tune when that specific dance figured prominently in the picture.

But as the first scenes unfolded, I stumbled over one good idea after another, all of which fit the tone and action of what was on the screen. Wow!

Before long, I'd settled on a few motives or "melodic cells," and these were enough to carry the rest of the film. It flowed quite easily, and seemed to be geared to punch up the humor.

One odd thing is that I was genuinely tired, both physically and mentally. But the music flowed easily, so it felt like fatigue actually worked to "unblock" the place where music comes from. Somehow, my tiredness actually seemed to disable my defenses and self-critical instincts, allowing the music to flow unhindered by the usual sandbars and debris.

It was coming so easily, towards the end I felt outside my own body, like a spectator taking it all in, just as surprised as anyone at the music as it unfolded.

And what's more, I was pleased with it, which seemed to also help things by acting as positive reinforcement. This kept occurring for most of the film.

As 'So This Is Paris' went through its final scenes, I sensed I'd totally nailed the film. And against all expectations, too—I was tired, had come to the theater with no real plan, and my head was full of raucous Dixieland. Plus I had to go to the bathroom!

But everything had come together. I ended the score with a well-proportioned flourish, and then was greeted by a generous ovation. Twice in one day! I could get used to this.

And so, dear Diary, I must confess to you that I never imagined I'd spend my Sundays like this—making live music for not one but two big silent film screenings in Boston, and to appreciative audiences.

I guess I do lead an interesting life, and for that I'm thankful. Ten years ago, if anyone had suggested I'd be doing so much public music, and for so many people, I'd have laughed. I thought that train had long ago left the station.

But it turns out I've been at the same station as Harold Lloyd at the beginning of 'Safety Last'—just missing the gallows, and then boarding an ice wagon by mistake before finally getting on the right train after all. And now I'm finally climbing the building.

I've just been stuck on the ice wagon for 30 years.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Dinosaurs and Dixieland! 'Lost World' tonight, then 'Safety Last' with live band on Sunday, 7/9

An original poster for 'The Lost World' (1925).

It's 'The Lost World' tonight, and then a new world of Dixieland this coming Sunday!

New to me, anyway, as it's the first time I've collaborated with a Dixieland band in scoring a silent film—or in anything, really!

Be that as it may, it's back to making music after a 4th of July weekend break.

First up is 'The Lost World' (1925), which is running tonight (Thursday, July 6) at the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, Mass.

It's the original 'dinosaur' movie—the one that showed the way for filmmakers all the way through Steven Spielberg's 'Jurassic Park' and beyond.

Showtime is 8 p.m. We've been getting good crowds at the Capitol silent film series, and it's turning out to be a great place to experience silent film the way it was intended: in a theatre, with live music, and with an audience.

And then on Sunday, July 9, the music will take a turn for New Orleans, with a screening of Harold Lloyd's great comedy 'Safety Last' (1923) in 35mm at the Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville.

Harold checking the time.

The show starts at 2 p.m. And with me in the pit will be Sammy D and the Late Risers, a local Dixieland ensemble.

I first heard Sammy and the band a few months ago at the Aeronaut Brewery, also in Somerville, when they were jamming prior to one of my Sunday night silent film programs.

I've always had a sweet tooth for the classic Dixieland sound—and for a bunch of guys from New England, they seemed to come pretty close!

If you'd like to get a sense of their sound, here's a clip of them in action. It's wild, uninhibited stuff and really effective in live performance.

(For our show, we're using trumpet, clarinet, banjo, bass tuba and drums. (Plus me on keyboard, as appropriate.)

And as I listened, it occurred to me that 'Safety Last' was coming up at the Somerville Theatre, and I was looking for a different approach, as we'd run the title a few years ago.

I also remembered seeing 'Safety Last' more than 10 years ago at a Boston area venue that will remain nameless.

The print had arrived unexpectedly without a recorded soundtrack, and so the theater's solution was to play a CD of Scott Joplin piano rags.

There's nothing wrong with Scott Joplin. And 'Safety Last' is one of the great thrill rides of cinema—even today the climax can be a nail-biting and nerve-wracking emotional roller coaster.

But two great things don't always go together. And in this case, I was struck how the steady, measured ragtime beat of Joplin's rags totally flattened the film!

Rather than amp up the excitement, the music removed all the peaks and valleys, leaving it a cinematic flat tire.

Wow! That was one of the reasons I began doing music for film—because, I reasoned, even I could do a better job, and something like that should never be allowed to happen to one of the cinema's great treasures.

So how to integrate a Dixieland group into the score? Carefully!

To that end, Sammy (full name Sammy Dechenne) and I have worked out a cue sheet that identifies when and where his group will play, and what kind of music will work. And in some places, I'll take over with just keyboard.

I think we've come up with an effective balance, and also a plan that will help Lloyd's great film come to life on Sunday afternoon.

Please join us and see what you think! See you on Sunday at the Somerville!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Tonight (Thursday, 6/8) in Ogunquit, Maine:
W.C. Fields is 'Running Wild' with live music

W.C. Fields sporting the 'stache he wore in the 1920s.

A silent W.C. Fields? Unimaginable, you say?

Well, see for yourself at a screening of 'Running Wild' (1927), one of the comedian's best silent feature films.

The screening is tonight (Thursday, June 8) at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Theatre in downtown Ogunquit, Maine.

Tickets are $10 per person; more info is in the press release pasted in below.

But what I'd like to emphasize is that yes, W.C. Fields really was very successful in motion pictures, even without his trademark nasal twang.

Those who grew up watching the 1930s and 1940s Fields talkies on TV will always think of him first as the older gentleman with the cynical attitude and a fondness for adult beverages.

But Fields was in show business long before the movies. As a youth in the early years of the century, his juggling act took him all over the world.

The act was silent, to a large extent. So Fields honed his skills in pantomime, which turned out to be perfect training for success in the silent cinema.

He was in films as early as 1915, but didn't take the plunge in any serious way until winning a key role in D.W. Griffith's circus melodrama 'Sally of the Sawdust' (1925).

W.C. Fields as a juggler, no less, with Carol Dempster in 'Sally of the Sawdust' (1925).

Afterwards, he was signed by Paramount to play lead roles in a series of comedies featuring the then-middle-aged Fields as a kind of frustrated everyman.

It was in films such as 'So's Your Old Man' (1926) and 'The Old Army Game' (1926) that Fields ensured such indignities as disrespectful families, howling children, unappreciative bosses, clueless customers, and just plain hard luck.

To me, it's like his silent-era adventures directly led to the more cynical outlook in his talking pictures later on.

In any case, 'Running Wild' is a flick worth catching. It contains great comedy, plus it's also a window into attitudes about child-rearing and discipline that today would probably get a parent arrested.

Oh, the good old days!

* * *

The poster for this season's silent film program at the Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit, Maine.

FRIDAY, JUNE 3, 2017 / FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info, contact: Jeff Rapsis • (603) 236-9237 • jeffrapsis@gmail.com

Leavitt Theatre in Ogunquit hosts silent film series with live music

Classic comedies, action-packed dramas highlight schedule; featured stars include W.C. Fields, Buster Keaton, and John Barrymore

OGUNQUIT, Maine—Classics of the silent film era will return to the big screen at Ogunquit's Leavitt Theatre, which is hosting a season of vintage cinema with live music in the historic facility.

The series gives area film fans a chance to see great movies from the pioneering days of cinema as they were intended to be shown—on the big screen, with an audience, and accompanied by live music.

Most screenings are on Thursday evenings. Next up is a 'Running Wild' (1927), a rare silent comedy starring W.C. Fields. Showtime is Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m.

In 'Running Wild,' Fields plays a hen-pecked husband saddled with a disrespectful family and stuck in a dead-end job.

Things change suddenly when Fields inadvertently comes under the spell of a vaudeville hypnotist, who transforms him into a hard-charging aggressive alpha-male, with unexpected consequences.

Although he later achieved lasting fame in talking pictures, Fields was a major performer during the silent film era, starring in a series of popular features for Paramount Pictures.

The Leavitt's silent film series runs through October, concluding with a Halloween screening of the early horror classic 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1920), to be shown on Saturday, Oct. 28.

Admission for each screening is $10 per person.

The series includes comedies, adventure films, a silent film version of 'The Wizard of Oz' (1925), the recently rediscovered original big-screen adaptation of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916), and the first-ever vampire movie, 'Nosferatu' (1922).

"These are the films that first made people fall in love with the movies, and we're thrilled to present them again on the big screen," said Peter Clayton, the Leavitt's long-time owner.

The Leavitt, a summer-only moviehouse, opened in 1923 at the height of the silent film era, and has been showing movies to summertime visitors for nine decades.

The silent film series honors the theater's long service as a moviehouse that has entertained generations of Seacoast residents and visitors, in good times and in bad.

"These movies were intended to be shown in this kind of environment, and with live music and with an audience," Clayton said. "Put it all together, and you've got great entertainment that still has a lot of power to move people."

Live music for each program will be provided by Jeff Rapsis, a New Hampshire-based performer and composer who specializes in scoring silent films.

In accompanying silent films live, Rapsis uses a digital synthesizer to recreate the texture of the full orchestra. He improvises the music in real time, as the movie is shown.

In scoring a movie, Rapsis creates music to help modern movie-goers accept silent film as a vital art form rather than something antiquated or obsolete.

"Silent film is a timeless art form that still has a unique emotional power, as the recent success of 'The Artist' has shown," Rapsis said.

Other films in this year's series include:

• Thursday, June 29 at 7 p.m.: 'Daredevil Aviation Double Feature.' Join fellow flyboys and flygals for a double feature of vintage silent film featuring 1920s biplane action.

• Thursday, July 13 at 7 p.m.: 'The Wizard of Oz' (1925) starring Larry Semon. Early silent film version of Frank L. Baum's immortal tales features silent comedian Larry Semon in a slapstick romp that also casts Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man. Oz as you've never seen it before!

• Thursday, Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.: 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916) starring William Gillette. Recently discovered in France after being lost for nearly a century, see this original 1916 adaptation of Sherlock Holmes stories as performed by William Gillette, the actor who created the role on stage.

• Thursday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m.: 'Go West' (1925) starring Buster Keaton. Buster's ranch comedy about the stone-faced comedian and his enduring romance with—a cow! Rustle up some belly laughs as Buster must prove himself worthy once again.

• Thursday, Oct. 5 at 7 p.m.: 'Nosferatu' (1922). Experience the original silent film adaptation of Bram Stoker's famous 'Dracula' story. Still scary after all these years—and some critics believe this version is not only the best ever done, but has actually become creepier with the passage of time.

• Saturday, Oct. 28 at 7 p.m.: 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde' (1920) starring John Barrymore; Just in time for Halloween! John Barrymore plays both title roles in the original silent film adaptation of the classic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson. A performance that helped establish Barrymore as one of the silent era's top stars.

All programs are at 7 p.m. and admission is $10 per person.

'Running Wild' (1927), a comedy starring W.C. Fields, will be shown on Thursday, June 8 at 7 p.m. at the Leavitt Fine Arts Theatre, 259 Main St. Route 1, Ogunquit, Maine; (207) 646-3123; admission is $10 per person, general seating.

For more information, visit www.leavittheatre.com. For more info on the music, visit www.jeffrapsis.com.